Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Would You Be an Effective Leader? Or Would the Power Go to Your Head?

I’ve been slacking here on the blog front, so I thought I’d add a little post.  Well, maybe not little…hehe.

So Todd Akin’s statements prove that he is an idiot.  I’m sure there is a very small minority out there who would disagree with me, and for them I would advise that they go find some health textbooks and learn something about the female anatomy.  What’s more shocking to me though is his refusal to exit the Senate race, despite his own party pressuring him to quit.  I just have to wonder if he’s that power-mad?  Is his quest to become a Senator so important that he’s willing to jeopardize the entire Republican party?  Very scary stuff.  We don’t need people like that ruling our country!

I think it’s an illness that may affect many politicians nowadays.  They may start out with lofty ambitions to win a seat or office, hoping they’ll be able to make some significant and positive change (even though “positive” is such a relative term), but then they become institutionalized, lose sight of their original intentions, and then just fight and fight to stay in power when it’s obvious to everyone else that they must leave.  I think our government needs to overhaul the term limits for certain positions.  Of course, it’d be easier to ask my son to throw away all of his Spider-man toys and gear.  Not going to happen!

I was watching Hotel Hell from last week, and the owner of the hotel, when confronted by Gordon Ramsey (who is just amazing in the way he motivates people), actually had the nerve to tell his employees that “if they don’t like it, they can find a job elsewhere.”  Gordon Ramsey just completely lost it on this jerk, repeatedly asking him “how dare” he “say something like that.”  And he’s right.  Anyone who manages even one other person has absolutely no business in that position if that’s his or her opinion.  Unfortunately, nearly everyone I know has heard a boss or supervisor utter those words.

Some managers and business owners seem to have this sentiment when their employees start complaining.  Instead of trying to rectify the situation, they’ll just dismiss it.  It’s the sign of a person who lacks leadership qualities, who is too afraid to effectively communicate, guide, listen, and even reprimand their staff.  These people tend to struggle with conflict and try to avoid it at all costs.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that if that’s the type of person he or she is, that person needs to not be a manager.  If an employee is complaining to you, whether it be about working conditions, gossip, wages, etc., it’s your job to listen to them, identify if their gripe is valid, and then communicate your thoughts and come up with a plan of action.  Don't just ignore it!

I’m about to get a little wordy here, but I just want to mention one case in particular (while protecting the names of the innocent).  We had Bob, an employee and a manager of a group of five or six, who reported to Frank, a low-level executive.  Frank also had Sally, Mary, and Pat reporting to him from other departments.  Sally, who ran a department with close ties to Bob’s, and several of her underlings had it out for Bob, and they repeatedly complained to Frank about Bob’s department.  However, Bob’s department was setting all sorts of records, so much so that even the President of the company complimented him on his work, and his staff’s morale was at an all-time high.  Sally’s complaints were petty attempts to make him look bad, but Frank couldn’t stand all the bickering and infighting among the departments, and at one point he actually asked Mary (from a third department) to “keep an eye on” Bob and look for certain things that Sally and her underlings complained over (which Mary never witnessed, I might add).  Pat, who worked in yet a different department, overheard bossman Frank’s plan, and so he told Bob about it.  Bob decided immediately to leave because he couldn’t put up with the departmental bull crap and poor management by his supervisor.  He couldn't believe that Frank wouldn't discuss the "complaints" with him and would rather have someone spy on him.  And who could blame him?  After he left, a new employee, James, was hired to move into Bob’s spot.  And then things went downhill from there.

Frank’s inability to effectively manage his staff caused the loss of a valuable employee.  And then, believe it or not, Frank was promoted even higher in the organization.  And James, who had no managerial experience, failed miserably without any guidance or training at being a manager (no surprise given that Frank was his boss).  The department continued to do well, mostly because of initiatives that Bob had put into place before he left, but morale began to slip to an all-time low.  James even at one point, frustrated over an employee’s complaints of having too much work to do, broke a lamp in his office.  He repeatedly threatened to write up his staff members for innocent or non-existent mistakes, and the department severely suffered.

Not good.  Would you want to work in a place like that?

Somewhere along the line, someone should have recognized Frank’s inability to lead and pushed him in a different direction.  Frank was great with numbers and reports and business analysis, but he was lousy with people.  And that’s just the way it is sometimes.  Not everyone is a born leader.  But nobody pointed this out to Frank, and so the atmosphere created under him was toxic and still remains that way today.  And by the way, I know Bob.  He’s doing great in his new role.  He’s also very happy and thankful he got out of there when he did.

Are these people just blinded by their power that they can’t see how harmful their actions are to those under and around them?  It reminds me of a line from a Nine Inch Nails song: Capital G.

                Don’t try to tell me how some power can corrupt a person
                You haven’t had enough to know what it’s like
                You’re only angry ‘cause you wish you were in my position
                Now nod your head because you know that I’m right.  All right!

Truly sad, but we all know people that certain people in authoritative roles tend to feel that way.

So what’s my point?  My point is that being a good leader isn’t for everyone, obviously.  But the Tao Teh Ching has some good advice for those who want to try.  By the way, check out my pocket-sized one--I suggest everyone get one and read it!  But anyway, for those of you who think you can be a leader, just contemplate these:

Chapter 17 of the Tao Teh Ching:
The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.
When you are lacking in faith, others will be unfaithful to you.
The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people will say, “We ourselves have achieved it!”

Chapter 24 of the Tao Teh Ching:
One on tip-toe cannot stand.
One astride cannot walk.
One who displays himself does not shine.
One who justifies himself has no glory.
One who boasts of his own ability has no merit.
One who parades his own success will not endure.
In Tao this things are called “unwanted foods and extraneous growths,” which are loathed by all things.
Hence a man of Tao does not set his heart upon them.

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